For a quarter century, the man who is now Spokane’s mayor has used positions of public trust – as a sheriff’s deputy, Boy Scout leader and powerful politician – to develop sexual relationships with boys and young men.
One man, Robert J. Galliher, claims in a court deposition that Jim West molested him in the mid-1970s when he was a boy and West was a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy and Boy Scout leader.
A second man, Michael G. Grant Jr., also accuses West of sexual abuse during the same era, including an incident at Camp Cowles, a Boy Scout camp on Diamond Lake.
In addition, an investigation by The Spokesman-Review has revealed that 17 months after leaving the state Legislature, West has used the trappings of the mayor’s office to entice and influence young men he met on a gay Web site.
On one recent occasion, West offered a man he believed to be an 18-year-old – whom he met online at Gay.com – gifts, favors and a City Hall internship, Internet dialogues retained by the newspaper reveal. The 18-year-old was actually a forensic computer expert working for the newspaper. (See related story.)
Last June, West went on a dinner date with another 18-year-old he met in the same gay chat room. The young man, initially unaware of his date’s identity, paid for dinner, and then was allowed to drive West’s blue Lexus convertible. The evening ended with consensual sex, the 18-year-old told the newspaper.
West, interviewed Wednesday evening at the newspaper, called the allegations leveled at him by Galliher and Grant “flat lies,” but he admitted having private online relationships in the past year through Gay.com.
Asked if he had ever abused a child, he responded: “Never. Never. Absolutely not.”
Asked about the claims of Galliher and Grant, West said, “I didn’t abuse them. I don’t know these people. I didn’t abuse anybody, and I didn’t have sex with anybody under 18 – ever – woman or man.”
“My private life is my private life, and always has been,” the mayor told two Spokesman-Review reporters and a photographer.
“There’s been a strong wall between my public life and my private life,” West said Wednesday.
He admitted offering an internship in his office, sports memorabilia he’s collected, help with college admissions, and trips to sports events and Washington, D.C., to a man he believed was an 18-year-old he met online at Gay.com. But he emphatically said he didn’t view those offers as “enticements to teenagers” or an abuse of his public office.
“Any kid in this town who walked into my office and filled out an application and could come to work, dressed properly and clean, could be an intern in my office,” the mayor said.
Later, asked about his private life, he said: “I wouldn’t characterize me as ‘gay,’ but he didn’t distance himself from the term “bisexual.”
“I don’t want to go into the whole issue, but I wouldn’t characterize me as ‘gay,’ ” he said.
“The Gay.com thing has only been, I can’t recall, but it hasn’t been very long,” West later said when told the newspaper had learned about his online aliases “Cobra82nd” and “RightBi-Guy.”
“I can’t tell you why I go there, to tell you the truth … curiosity, confused, whatever, I don’t know,” the mayor said.
Rumors about inappropriate sexual behavior have shadowed West for years in state political circles, but no one has talked publicly until now.
In the lawsuit against the county, Galliher, his older brother Brett and two other men claim former Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy David Hahn sexually molested them during the mid-‘70s and early 1980s.
West is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. But Galliher’s sexual abuse allegations against West are included in Galliher’s deposition taken last month in Seattle and in a letter he wrote from prison in early 2004.
The letter was given to private lawyers representing Spokane County as part of discovery in the suit. West, who said he was unaware of the letter and details of the deposition, could be called as a witness in that trial and could be asked questions under oath before then.
Position of trust
In separate interviews last month, Galliher, 36, and Grant, 31, said they were introduced to West by David Hahn sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Hahn and West were close friends, serving together as sheriff’s deputies and Scout leaders of Troop 345 at Hamblen Elementary School on Spokane’s South Hill.
While Galliher and Grant struggled with drug addiction and incarceration as adults, West moved on to become one of the most influential Republicans in the state – even talking privately to aides and fellow politicians about running for governor one day.
Galliher said he’s “not really sure” why he hasn’t publicly talked about West until now. In a June 2003 story in The Spokesman-Review, Galliher accused Hahn of molesting him at least 40 times, sometimes in the deputy’s patrol car. Since that 2003 interview, Galliher joined the suit against the county.
“I was still afraid of him, West, for one,” Galliher said last month near Seattle where he is living. “I mean, he held a pretty high job. Someone in my position really didn’t want anything to do with him.”
Galliher said his stomach churned in November 2003 when West was elected mayor of Spokane.
“I thought it was pretty sick … after what he’d done to me,” said Galliher, a skilled craftsman who did some tile work for the Davenport Hotel renovation.
When he talks about the abuse, which he said occurred when he was between the ages of 8 and 11, he becomes emotional. Perspiration beads up on his forehead, and his deep voice frequently breaks. He said counselors have told him he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the abuse.
Galliher, his older brothers and younger sister grew up in Spokane Valley, living in a house near Boone Avenue and Pines Road with their mother. Their father, a long-haul trucker, was rarely at home. His parents eventually divorced.
Galliher said he and his brother Brett met Hahn in the spring of 1977. Hahn responded to a service call after a woman threatened to run over the boys with her car while they delivered newspapers, Galliher said.
Hahn befriended the Galliher family and visited their home when he was off duty. Soon after, he took Robert and Brett – always separately – on outings to the gym and to his apartment at 3420 S. Regal St.
Part of the attraction for both Galliher boys, they said, was Hahn’s new blue Datsun 280Z sports car equipped with an early-model cell phone.
Galliher said he can’t remember the specific date, but said one day at Hahn’s apartment he was introduced to one of his friends who identified himself to Galliher as Jim West.
“This one time Dave ended up leaving me in the apartment with Jim West,” Galliher recalled. “Jim West ended up molesting me – just grabbing my penis, fondling me, making me fondle him. Some oral sex, if you call it that.”
Afterward, Galliher said he was warned by West not to say anything. “He just told me I better not tell anyone about this. I mean, kind of the same threat that Dave Hahn had told me.”
Galliher claims he was molested at least four times by West, twice while West was on duty in uniform, driving a sheriff’s car.
At Hahn’s South Hill apartment, Galliher said, he frequently was given small amounts of marijuana to smoke by West and Hahn. “They didn’t smoke it, but they’d give it to me,” he said.
While he doesn’t remember the precise sequence of the alleged molestations, he recalled a time when he attended a “pine wood derby” race at Broadway Elementary in Spokane Valley. Galliher said he was approached by West and taken to his private vehicle and molested.
Another time, Galliher said, West showed up in uniform while Galliher and his friends rode their motocross-style bicycles in a dirt lot near the former Chapter 11 restaurant on East Sprague Avenue.
“He pulled up in his car, the green police car,” Galliher said. “That time he put my bike in the trunk and gave me a ride home. Not home, close to home. He stopped on the way, somewhere, and parked, and did the same thing again.”
On another occasion, West was on duty when he showed up at East Bowl, a bowling alley where Galliher frequently hung out with his buddies.
“He just picked me up and drove me somewhere again and molested me,” Galliher said.
He told no one about the abuse. But even the name of one of his favorite TV cartoon shows, “Jonny Quest,” reminded him of Jim West, he said.
Witness to a death
Hahn used his service revolver to kill himself in his South Hill apartment on Aug. 28, 1981, after being confronted by sheriff’s officials with accusations of pedophilia. He was 36.
Galliher said the abuse by West stopped after Hahn’s suicide.
In his interview with The Spokesman-Review, Galliher revealed publicly for the first time that he witnessed Hahn’s suicide.
On that day, Galliher said Hahn picked him up in his personal car near Terrace View Park in Spokane Valley.
Hahn drove back to his apartment on South Regal, molested Galliher, and then spent a considerable amount of time on the telephone, Galliher said.
“I remember he wasn’t really being himself that day,” he said. “He took me into the bedroom, and we were sitting on the bed. He pulled his gun out, which he’d done before. This time he put the gun up to my head.
“I closed my eyes, and then he moved the gun to his head and blew his brains out,” Galliher said.
He said he ran from the South Hill apartment, traumatized and frightened.
“My only thought was to get out of there,” Galliher said.
He did not call police or medics.
“I lived in the Valley, so it was a long walk. I mean it took me probably almost all night to get home. I went down to the bowling alley where I hung out and slept in this field.”
After Hahn’s death, records of the investigation and citizen complaints were put into his personnel file, which was then destroyed, Sheriff Mark Sterk said in 2003. Then-Sheriff Larry Erickson, who defeated West for the sheriff’s job in 1978, closed the case.
Galliher’s mother, Marlene Traynor, accuses the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office of covering up evidence of abuse of her sons.
“It’s definitely been a cover-up, I’d say,” said Traynor, who lives in Eastern Washington. In the mid-1980s, she reported Hahn’s alleged abuse of her sons, Robert and Brett Galliher, beginning when they were 8 and 10, to the Sheriff’s Department, which paid for some counseling but never conducted a formal investigation, she said.
“For someone to recover from something like this, there has to be a healing process, and that can’t occur until someone in official capacity admits that, yes, it did happen and that they’re sorry,” she said.
“Instead, my two sons were treated with almost brutality,” Traynor said. “On the other hand, David Hahn was given a bloody hero’s funeral. It’s like he died in the line of duty.”
Eight months after Hahn’s suicide, George E. Robey, another Scout leader who was a friend of Hahn’s and West’s, also killed himself amid allegations he sexually abused boys. Robey was leader of Troop 353 at Hutton Elementary, whose Scouts frequently joined the Hahn-West troop on outings.
Robey’s death, like Hahn’s, was handled by police as a routine suicide. No records exist showing there was an investigation into pedophilia.
Galliher said he told no one about West or about Hahn’s suicide until writing a letter in January 2004 to Mic Hunter, a St. Paul, Minn., psychologist and author of “Abused Boys,” a book on sex abuse.
At the time he wrote the letter, which was obtained by The Spokesman-Review, Galliher was serving prison time for eluding police and burglary – crimes he blames on his drug addiction – and was looking for help from Hunter. The author acknowledged receiving the letter. He sent a brief reply suggesting where Galliher could get some help.
After the June 2003 story in which Galliher was quoted as saying he was abused by Hahn, Galliher said, he was paid a visit by West.
Galliher said he was serving time at Geiger Corrections Center when West, a Spokane mayoral candidate, came by late at night and told Galliher not to talk about the past. Galliher, who is now on parole, said he was given the same message by his Geiger counselor, Robin Butcher: “to keep my mouth shut about West or I’d suffer some pretty severe consequences.”
Butcher confirmed April 13 that she received an “oral directive” from Mike Pannek, Geiger’s director, to tell inmate Galliher to stop talking about West.
“I told Mr. Galliher he was not to contact or harass Jim West either at home or his business,” she said. Butcher said she had no knowledge that Galliher was contacting West and was merely “following orders.”
Pannek, now running prisons in Iraq for the U.S. government, said by e-mail that he “vaguely recalls” getting the message from West.
The mayor denied going to Geiger, but said he did send a message to Galliher after getting several “anonymous harassing” calls suggesting he needed to talk to the inmate.
West said he had no idea why he might need to talk to Galliher.
More claims of abuse
Like Galliher, Michael Grant has battled addiction. He’s currently in jail in central Washington, facing his seventh felony drug conviction.
Grant said he was sexually abused twice by Hahn and twice by West when he was 7 or 8, including once at Camp Cowles, the Boy Scout camp on Diamond Lake north of Spokane in Pend Oreille County.
Hahn and West used a federal grant in 1977 for a weeklong summer camp for troubled kids, who were commingled with regular Scout campers at Camp Cowles. West denies that any sexual abuse happened at the camp, and said he had no idea his friend Hahn was a pedophile.
“You know I ran Scout camps for five years. I had 1,300 kids a year come through the Scout camp … and taught a lot of kids how to swim,” West said.
As a young boy with parents who were separated, Grant said he spent a lot of time on the streets, frequently riding his bicycle from Spokane’s West Central neighborhood to University City, near where other family and friends lived.
“I was a hellion kid, I guess,” he said in a jailhouse interview. “I would just jump on my bike and go.”
Grant said he believes he was 7 or 8 when he and two other boys were stopped by Hahn for throwing rocks and breaking windows at a vacant house.
After letting the other two boys go, Hahn put Grant in the back seat of the sheriff’s patrol car and molested him, Grant said.
A similar molestation occurred a few weeks later when Hahn again spotted him and a group of friends, who were Cub Scouts, Grant said.
At some point, Hahn took him to his apartment on South Regal to introduce him to a friend who was identified as Jim West, Grant said. He was not told West was a sheriff’s deputy, Grant said.
“They just molested me. Sodomized me,” Grant said. “Not at the same time, just like took turns. They took me into the bathroom and one came in, then the other.”
Grant said he encountered West again when he and his brother Donald, also in scouting, went to a Scout outing at Camp Cowles.
“Jim West came to where our camp was,” Grant said. “He asked me to come back to his camper he had at the campgrounds.”
“I told him I didn’t want to go,” Grant said. “He told me I need to come with him.”
“He molested me in the camper,” Grant said. “He sodomized me. That’s all, I mean that’s not all.”
He didn’t elaborate, but said he told no one about being sexually abused at the Boy Scout camp.
“Who was I to tell?” he said. “I couldn’t even tell my brother because I was embarrassed about it.”
Grant also said he was threatened by West. “I was told if I was to tell anybody, that he would kill my mom … that she would not exist no more.”
West said he never met anyone named Michael G. Grant.
He dropped out of the Boy Scouts shortly after that encounter and dropped out of school in the seventh grade. Over the years he’s held a series of odd jobs.
Unlike Galliher, Grant said he’s never considered talking with a lawyer or a counselor.
“Money ain’t gonna do me no good,” he said. “It ain’t gonna make me feel any better.”
As for counselors, “they just poke and prod. I’d much rather put it in the back of my head. Maybe it’s not the right thing to do, but it’s how I’ve dealt with this one.”
Now a father himself, Grant said he has a deep-seated distrust of both the Boy Scouts and law-enforcement officers.
“I see a cop, and I run,” he said. “I see cops, they’re no good. To me, that’s the way I’ve thought my whole life because if one cop will do that to you, who says the next one won’t?”
“Now I’m big enough to stand up for my own self and there ain’t nobody going to touch me like that again,” he said. “Ain’t nobody gonna touch my kids, ain’t nobody going to touch none of them.”
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